In 2016, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump told coal miners in western Pennsylvania he was going to bring their jobs back along with the engineers, chemists and geologists who work alongside them. In return, Trump won big around the coal-producing parts of Appalachian Pennsylvania.
Four years later, New York Post met with dozens of miners to see if their feelings for Trump have changed. All the workers who were interviewed, not only still support Trump for reelection, they firmly believe he has done right by their industry.
Those who live outside the hollers point to statistics that show more coal jobs have been lost since Trump took office. And it’s true: there were close to 90,000 coal- mining jobs in 2012, compared to 46,600 today. In the last five years, 483 coal-fired electric generating units in the US have closed or announced their retirement.
But those who work in the industry said they aren’t blind to the data. Rather, they said that Trump’s shift away from Obama’s policies was the first step toward reversing the trend.
“We in the industry knew when he said he was bringing it back that it wasn’t going to happen overnight, nor was it going to ever look like it once did at its peak,” said Vance, the only female miner at the facility that employs 300 total underground.
In 2008, when candidate Barack Obama ran for president, his mantra of “Hope and Change” was not seen as a threat to the livelihoods of working-class voters.
But in 2015, President Obama unveiled the Clean Power Plan, that aimed to reduce US power sector emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030 and switch the country’s electrical grid away from coal-fired power plant dependence. Coal miners suddenly felt the Democrat Party had abandoned not just their jobs but also their communities, deeply rooted in coal country for generations.
The Trump administration eventually replaced Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the Affordable Clean Energy rule (ACE), which aims to lower power sector emissions by 11 million tons by 2030, or between 0.7 percent and 1.5 percent. Trump’s rule insisted on just one method: efficiency. Under his plan, power plants had to draw more energy from the same amount of fuel.
Eric Schube, a miner, said his industry knows it must cut emissions, and Trump has made it easier to do that. “He was successful over the last four years in rolling back some of the regulations and stopping that harm that was being done to our industry,” he said. “Although in my opinion, the harm was almost irreparable. You can’t turn back the hands of time. The best that you can hope for is that it either slows or stops. That’s why I voted for Mr. Trump the first time, and that’s why I’ll vote for him again.”